BHP’s Olympic Dam dilemma: fuel nuclear risks as a uranium quarry or trade as a copper mine?

BHP’s Olympic Dam dilemma: fuel nuclear risks as a uranium quarry or trade as a copper mine?

Date: 1-May-2009

BHP Billiton should use the Olympic Dam mine expansion Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to set out a path that avoids the risks and responsibilities associated with uranium exports and positions the mine to trade as a copper venture, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.

“Under the existing proposal BHP plans to expand Olympic Dam to make it the uranium quarry to the global nuclear industry, but this is not the only option open to the company,” said ACF Nuclear Free Campaigner David Noonan.

“BHP could spare South Australia the massive risks and responsibilities associated with uranium exports by retaining all radioactive materials on the mine site and developing Olympic Dam’s significant copper deposits.

“The uranium quarry plan would make BHP and South Australia complicit in selling uranium to nuclear weapons states and in unresolved radioactive waste management problems overseas and at the mine site.

“US President Obama has recently withdrawn support and budget for the proposed nuclear waste disposal site at Mt Yucca in Nevada after 20 years and more than A$13 billion have been spent on this single project.

“The EIS to be released today must explain how BHP proposes to manage the expanded mine’s bulk radioactive tailings waste for the 10,000 years the tailings remain a radiological hazard and need to be isolated from the environment.

“BHP’s plan to simply leave these hazardous tailings on the surface forever fails to satisfy the existing Commonwealth requirement, set out in environmental conditions for the Ranger uranium mine, to return radioactive tailing to the pit.

“Setting out a path for Olympic Dam to process all its copper products in South Australia, instead of processing a bulk radioactive copper concentrate in China, would boost local jobs and be much better for the global environment.”

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